BERLIN — Only two candidates sought signatures and qualified to run on the Board of Education, leaving one seat unclaimed with the deadline having passed on Aug. 7.
According to the Town Clerk’s Office and the Town Charter, in the case of such a vacancy the board will appoint a member to fill the seat. That appointee will serve until the next municipal election, when the seat will once again go up for election to fill out its three year term, ending in 2022.
Board of Education President Matthew Tencza and Jaymee Miller both acquired the necessary number of signatures to qualify to appear on the ballot to retain their seats, however, board member Jake Fisher did not file paperwork to run again. The Town Clerk’s Office did not receive any submissions to begin collecting signatures by other individuals.
Fisher was surprised that no candidates came forth to try for his seat. He said he did not run again in order to allow new members to join. Should no one seek an appointment to the board in November, he said he might return.
While he admitted it can be a difficult and sometimes thankless job, Fisher said his three years on the board were an opportunity for him to give back to the town and he’s coming away from it with a better impression of his fellow residents.
“The people on the board are a phenomenal group of people. They're not political, they're not partisan, they truly just have the best interest of the people and the community in mind. And that’s just a great experience. To actually work and make a difference for the kids and the people in town is immensely satisfying,” Fisher said.
Tencza expects that the board will begin soliciting applications for prospective nominees at its first meeting after the November election. Those interested will be interviewed by the board and will require approval from a majority of the board’s eight members. He said it’s not unusual to have board members be appointed. Current members Adam Salina and Traci Sisti were both appointed before being elected to hold their seats last year, however, he could not think of any case when a vacancy was created due to a lack of candidates ahead of an election.
Getting onto the ballot can be a challenge, Tencza said, with the charter requiring that candidates submit a petition signed by one percent of registered voters.
“The process to get on the ballot can be tedious, to go out and collect signatures … to do that during the summer months can be tedious,” he said.